The Top Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Canada

First-time visitors to any country need to know the best ways to travel both smartly and safely, and travelers to Canada are no different. It's important to know emergency procedures as well as cultural practices, such as tipping standards and the legal drinking age. 

So, whether you are visiting Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, or anywhere in between, continue reading to learn basic tips for making your first time in Canada as easy and seamless as possible.

  • 01 of 06

    Travel Documents Information

    Canadian travel documents & flag
    ••• Canadian passport and Canada flag. Photo © Getty Images / Peter Carroll

    If you're traveling to Canada from a foreign country (including the U.S.) you must have the correct travel documents. At a minimum, you will need a valid passport, and some countries may also require a visa before entering. For more information on visas, visit Canada Visa Requirements: Who Needs a Visa.

    Countries that do not require a visa to enter Canada include the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Italy, and Switzerland, among many others, but be sure to check that this information is up to date before planning your trip.

  • 02 of 06

    Province Information

    Canada is a very large country made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories. These provinces are similar to states in America, and for example, Vancouver is in the province of British Columbia, while Montreal is located in Quebec. If you are unsure about which province you're traveling to, consult a detailed map of Canada before arriving. 

  • 03 of 06

    Emergency Information

    If you are in an emergency situation, the phone number for contacting emergency services, including the police, medical services, and fire fighters in Canada is 911.  

    You may dial this number from any phone for free, but make sure you only use it in a case of emergency.

    For more tips on keeping safe while traveling, including how to get non-emergency medical care, read ​How to Travel Safely in Vancouver, BC.

  • 04 of 06

    Canadian Currency Information

    Canada's currency is the Canadian Dollar. There are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 Canadian bills (paper money) and $1 and $2 coins. 

    You may hear the Canadian $1 coin referred to as a "loonie," and the $2 coin referred to as a "toonie." Before your trip, make sure you know the current exchange rate, which fluctuates daily, and even sometimes by the hour.

    Just like in the United States, the images on the paper bills and coins have significant meaning to the country. For example, on the back of every Canadian $20 bill is the sculpture Raven and The First Men by British Columbia's First Nations artist Bill Reid. This sculpture is on display at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, which is open to the public.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Tipping Protocol

    Tipping 15% - 20% of the cost of the service is expected for many services you use when traveling to Canada including:

    • Restaurant wait staff and bartenders, taxi drivers, porters, baggage handlers, and valet drivers.
    • Hair and beauty salons (including eyebrow threading, manicures, and pedicures).
    • Hotel housekeeping services.
    • If you're unsure about tipping, consult your hotel's concierge or try to observe the patrons around you.
  • 06 of 06

    Alcohol Consumption Information

    In Canada, aside from Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec provinces which allow drinking at 18 years of age, the legal drinking age everywhere else is 19.

    To drink alcohol at a restaurant or bar in any province, you must have official documentation, such as a passport, in order to prove your age.

    The minimum drinking age may also apply to many of the local clubs, who will only admit guests over 18 or 19 years old.